The Image

Image

I want value. It is a human need and without it we become insecure, fearful, and diminished. This blocks my happiness and that pain just really hurts. I have been told that I can get value through other people verifying a well-put-together and cool image that I can develop and act out. Desperate for value, I portray an accumulated image built from what I see society agreeing with through movies, TV, interactions, and lessons from people who have been my age before me.

This image includes standards for how we look (clothes, hair, face, body), how we spend our time (entertainment, competition, building success to retire, having sex, building knowledge of politics, finance, sports, fashion, hair, accessories), and conversing about superficial topics that trigger our brains (sports, actors, gossip, sex, how we look, last weekend, what is bad, what is good). All these things develop with new generations, and the majority of people on this earth (especially now, with a more global world) follow the herd to fit in…including me.

These phony activities created from these insincere standards all slide right over the facts of life and because they are not engraved in the significant realities that press us for our attention they offer no meaning, sense of real self, or growth towards our developing brains. For me, this image is not what I have experienced to be meaningful or real. I have seen that others’ acceptance of my image is weak and only a short-term feeling of quick pleasure. A stronger and more fulfilling stance is being myself and engraved in the facts of my day. When I come home out of the public and have been myself, I am congruent with who I am and where I am today. With my integrity intact, I can consistently grow and develop. That congruency brings peace of mind, and the lack of confusion in my head is satisfying, fulfills a meaningful progression and direction, and creates growth and experience that stays with me every step forward.

Pain: Ode To Pepper

What is meaningful comes into our reach when we actually live, think, and feel in reality (even if the facts are painful). This is really important because pain (i.e. embarrassment) is usually what brings me to act as an image again. Learning from every fact that we face, especially pain, will help us to grow. This growth will bring us away from fear and create more freedom in our lives and in our minds (as fear is hesitation to pain). There will always be pain. There will always be joy. There will always be death and life, love and loss, confidence and embarrassment, beauty and ugliness, individuality and dependency, beneficial consequences and hurtful penalties. If these are the facts that are pressing for my attention, I want to acknowledge them, understand them, and learn how to live and grow with them.

The night my dog died I had a lot of mixed feelings making me uncomfortably sad, frustrated, and angry. But, instead of distracting away from all these intense feelings, I thought I would alleviate this confusing mix by figuring out which feelings were real and which were based on fabricated conclusions.

The frustration was coming from the fact that I was not there to make sure he didn’t run out the gate. That means that I would have had to be perfect at always being there to make sure he was safe. Perfection is not possible…frustration extinguished. I was angry because I let my parents watch him while I went to see a movie and they weren’t perfect at watching him to make sure he was safe. Perfection is not possible and they were out of their element…anger extinguished.

On that night Pepper was hit by a car as he ran out the gate to be adventurous and curious, two amazing qualities that he taught me to include in my own thoughts and actions. I was called with a haunting voice that was crying from guilt and anticipation of my hurt. My dad said, “Pepper is dead.” I quickly hung up the phone, grabbed my friend from inside the movie theater, and broke down in the parking lot on the way to the car.

I raised this dog from a timid puppy to a confident and friendly young dog. This dog was my best friend. This was the dog that gave me companionship as my ex and I broke up. This dog was with me as I grew from a panic-ridden, confused teen into a more mature, conscious man seeking for meaning in my life. This dog was with me as I found beauty on our hikes and 16 hour-long road trips. This dog was with me when I found myself and began to break away from society’s image.

I drove home in tears, pulled into the gate, and walked to the outside tables to see Pepper lying there, blood dripping from his ears, and no breath lifting his chest. I felt his soft, cold body, looked into his dead, open eyes, and was swept with intense emotions of sadness, frustration, and anger. After sifting through the others, I began to see why I was sad. I lost him. I lost my best friend, my companion on my journey of growth. I will never get to see his smiling face again and as a man just finding out what life is, I am staring death in the face.

If I didn’t comb through all of the emotions tied around my thoughts in order to see the facts of this situation, then I would be an inconsolable and confused child, blaming others for my inaccurate feelings, and trying to distract away from the confusing pain of what really was just a genuine loss of a true companion. With a clear head, I learned of life, death, and living fully as Pepper did. I grew as I mourned, and I grew as I thought with this peace of mind and congruence.

Speed Bump

Anytime I am alone I begin to value who I really am again. My thoughts and insight, my work and creativity, and the beauty I find in nature, music, and honesty. I respect my independence when I am alone and the person I have grown to be so far. There is a speed bump, however. There is a habit that is stuck in my muscle memory. What I value about myself becomes tossed to the side when I become frozen. My mind freezes over with “STANDARDS” of this image and as I begin to think about stepping into the public eye, I start getting weird, tense, and doused with thoughts of how to act and look in order to impress people.

This is where I need to be courageous to see my habit as I step outside the door. Then, I need to attract the consistency to tediously replace my purpose each time. I need a reality-based purpose that will bring me to grow and develop this man I am and this man I want to become. In order to be real and honest in the public eye, I need to be focused, aware, and adventurous. “What are the facts, what do the facts mean, and where can I go where the facts are quintessential?” These are the questions that will orient myself towards an accurate observation of reality, others, and myself. I need to be strong and keep reminding myself that I get my value from being my focused and relaxed self. And, I become relaxed and focused when I am engraved in the facts of reality rather than being blind to the experience as I act out an image deemed agreeable and acceptable by our standards in society.

Never Compromise

It is scary and out of control to be alive, but it is stressful, artificial, and unsatisfying to become a standard. I choose being alive and finding a completely honest sense of value over fitting in, and I would make that choice any day.

I thought this song and lyrics were fitting for this post:

On the day that I die,
I wanna to say that I,
Was a man who really lived and never compromised.
I want to live out my days,
Until the very end,
I hope they find me in my home with my guitar in my hands.
I hope they find me in my home with my guitar in my hands.

A part of dawn to be ashamed of,
But good people are supposed to be up.
But I found peace with the path I took,
As I lay down my head.
Crossroads you gotta choose,
Which way could be win or lose.
But every morning my soul seems to sing on through.

-Zac Brown Band, On The Day That I Die

Also here is the song I wrote for Pepper the night he died:

About Kevin Carlstead

I graduated as a hospitality and psychology student at University of Denver. I spent most of my teenage and young adult years in the hospitality industry. I am still searching for what industry suits my personality and talents so that I can feel more meaning throughout my days. My current career pursuit has me enrolled in a graduate program to become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I was born and raised in San Diego, CA. I love music with something to it. I love life with something to it. I have made it one of my purposes in this life to integrate both of these things that I love. This blog and my own songwriting has given me the platforms to do that very thing. Thank you for reading.
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